Geraldine Pratt May – Colonel, Untied States Air Force

Courtesy of the Armed Forces Press Service:

Geraldine Pratt May, the first Air Force woman to earn the grade of colonel and the first director of Women in the Air Force, died November 2, 1997at Menlo Park, California. She was 102.

Funeral services take place at 10 a.m. Dec. 10 at the old Fort Myer (Virginia) chapel. Interment with full military honors will follow immediately after at Arlington National Cemetery.

Born in Albany, New York, April 21, 1895, May attended high school in Tacoma, Washington, and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley.

A social worker and Camp Fire Girls executive, she married in 1928 in Sacramento, Calif., and moved to Tulsa, Okla. After her husband died, she joined the newly formed Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in July 1942 to attend officer candidate school at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.

May received her commission in August 1942 and the following March was among the first women officers assigned to the Army Air Forces where she served as WAC staff director of Air Transport Command, which included 6,000 enlisted women and officers.

In this capacity, she visited air bases throughout the United States and overseas to inspect and advise commanders on policies and assignments of Army women.

At the end of World War II she was assigned to the War Department General Staff and later to the Army Ground Forces as WAC staff director. In January 1948, May was transferred to Army headquarters to formulate plans in the post-war military.

With the enactment of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act in June 1948, May received a reserve commission in the newly created Air Force. She was appointed director of Women in the Air Force with the rank of full colonel, the first woman in the Air Force to hold that rank and the first to hold this post.

As WAF director, May advised the chief of staff and the Air Staff on the formulation of the plans and policies for integrating women into the regular and reserves of the Air Force.

In her book, “Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution”, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm described May as a “tiny, soft-spoken woman,” but “her low-key demeanor disguised a strong will and an iron determination” and as one “not given to compromise on matters of principle.”

Although May left active duty in 1951 and went on to other government posts, Holm said the colonel “will forever be remembered by those with whom she served as a true pioneer of women in the military and an example of professionalism and grace as an Air Force officer.”

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